Monday, March 9, 2015

Bangladesh fast shedding ‘minnows’ tag

This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Every dog has its day goes the saying and the Bangladesh cricket team cannot be fault for thinking that their day under the sun or should I say under floodlights has finally come! Ever since the Bangla Tigers were inducted into the cauldron of international cricket, they have been at the receiving end of lop-sided defeats, which bordered on morale-pounding kind far removed from the confidence-injecting triumphs, which would spur on bigger things.

There was always a lurking feeling that the Bangladesh team was teeming with flair and promise, but a lot of times they have only contrived to exude a ‘flatter to deceive’ feeling. Over the years, Bangladesh has churned out the likes of Mohammed Ashraful (his singlehanded demotion of mighty Australia in one game in England is still remembered fondly) and Mohammed Rafique, who were talked about in glowing terms – it’s a different matter that the former didn’t quite realized his potential, while the latter served his country with distinction.

Somehow, Bangladesh never seemed to have a coterie of five-six solid players, who on their day can inflict serious damage on the opposition irrespective of whether it was a world number one side or any other top side. Over the past few years, there is strong criticism about the Bangladesh side that was heavily reliant on one Shakib Al Hasan, who is not just a fluent strokemaker, a brilliant fielder and more than a handy left-arm spinner. Without mincing words, one felt that Shakib had to do everything by himself for Bangladesh to look competitive against any frontline side. We have seen on umpteen occasions Shakib performing the ‘rescue act’ for Bangladesh be it a Test match or a one-day game either with the bat or ball. Bangladesh also has another hugely talented Tamin Iqbal, who would occasionally fire befitting his reputation (we all remember his Test ton at Lord’s) much to the frustration of his team.

The perspective one is trying to draw is that Bangladesh never had the batting and bowling units to threaten top sides, though there are signs that this team was getting closer towards fast shedding the tag of ‘minnows’. The 2015 World Cup saw a vastly transformed Bangladesh side, which got hunger instilled in their ranks to push the envelope and make other sides realize that their days of being minnows are close to being over.

Bangladesh’s epochal victory over England on Monday, which saw the latter out of the World Cup has was a statement-making one – a realization that top sides cannot afford to take them lightly. Shakib Al Hasan, one man Bangladesh counts on to fire every time missed out against England and despite that Bangladesh were able to amass a decent score in excess of 270- thanks largely to a fine century by Mahmudullah, who has grown in stature over the past few years, having played the second fiddle to the likes of Shakib and Tamim. Former skipper and gloveman Mushfiqur Rahim, who started off as a grafter, accumulating the ones and twos with a occasionally boundary, now seems to have armed himself with more strokes in his repertoire than ever before. The sight of Mushfiqur unleashing the big shots effectively is a novelty for all of us – his batting has rapidly improved, especially in the last couple of years.

Skipper Mashrafe Mortaza has been an able soldier for the team over the years, despite a plethora of injuries dogging his cricketing career. Mortaza was perhaps the only bowler, who used to clock speeds in excess of 140 kmph for some years, as most others were gentle medium-pacers who could be only expected to do the containment job at best of times rather than blast batters out.

This current side has the duo of Rubel Hossain and 19-year-old Taskin Ahmed, who touch excess of 140 kmph with ease and can make things difficult for the opposition with their pace and swing movement – the delivery by Taskin that prised out a well-set Jos Butler would aptly sum it up. Rubel showed a lot of maturity first accounting for vastly experienced Ian Bell before polishing off the English tail to trigger joyous celebrations in the Bangladesh camp.

This Bangladesh side appears more ‘complete’ than ever and does not easily get overawed by the reputation of other teams and are armed with brimming self-belief that enables them to compete without bothering about the outcome of a match. Expecting Bangladesh to go beyond the quarterfinals would sound slightly over the top, but any team that is going to underestimate them as minnows will have to pay a heavy price as this side thrive being underdogs.

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